There should be no doubt that nutrition is considered to be medically pertinent by the veterinary profession as a whole. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has provided guidelines for nutritional assessment since 2011. The association maintains that nutritional assessment is one of the five vital signs to be evaluated in the basic physical exam of all small mammals, along with temperature, pulse, respiration, and pain assessment. The 12 page document guides the practitioner through conducting a thorough assessment of the animal's nutritional status and ongoing needs. This document does not provide any specific food or brand recommendations for veterinarians to provide their clients, but instead offers criteria for consideration during commercial diet evaluation. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has also provided similar guidelines, likewise asserting that nutrition is an integral part of animal health and wellness. Finally, the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN), established by the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition (AAVN) in 1984 to develop nutrition as a boarded specialty, has published a document of nutritional competencies of small animal veterinarians, a list of functions that all small animal vets should be able to perform upon graduation, even without specialization. The three page list of competencies includes:
- Determine adequacy of the current diet for the physiological status of the animal
- Understand the functions of nutrients and the role of ingredients and nutrients in health and disease
- Differentiate between the presence of diet-induced and nutrient-sensitive disease
- Provide assistance to formulate an adequate home-prepared diet when necessary, referring to ACVN Diplomate as needed
- Assist the client in choosing appropriate diets for their pet’s lifestage, activity and physiology, consistent with the client’s personal preferences
- Evaluate nutrition-related information presented in journals and other professional texts
- Evaluate validity of nutrition-related marketing claims
Though it should be clear that there is an expectation for nutrition knowledge within the profession, curriculum and competencies are just on paper-- what about a first hand account of what happens behind closed classroom doors? To recount my own first year introductory nutrition course:
Our classroom was not sponsored by Nestle or Mars. I paid approximately $900 in tuition for this single course. Some of my out of state colleagues paid closer to $1400. Our professor was not some random marketing rep from a pet food company. He’s a faculty specialist at the campus veterinary hospital. He’s boarded in not only nutrition, but also internal medicine. In addition to his veterinary degree and specializations, he holds a Master’s in medical science and a PhD in veterinary medicine.
- Ways to determine digestibility, factors that alter digestibility, and average digestibility of common protein and carb sources
" to help mediate the potential for bias introduction during these sponsored events.